I am a long-time fan of Rogue Creamery of Oregon – makers of Oregonzola – but I hadn’t tried their Smokey Blue until a recent “Best Blues” class at Cheesetique. Rogue Creamery has an interesting history, started in southern Oregon by an Italian immigrant in 1935 with the backing of J.L. Kraft. Yes, that Kraft. Rogue produced the first American blue cheese to win the London Best Cheese Award for blue cheese, with its Rogue River Blue in 2003. The Rogue River is made only during the autumnal equinox and winter solstice each year, and wrapped in grape leaves macerated in pear brandy to give it a sharp, fruity flavor.

The Smokey Blue is the first cold-smoked blue cheese, smoked for 16 hours over crushed Oregon hazelnut shells. Domestic hazelnuts are entirely grown in the Pacific Northwest, virtually all in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, so it’s a natural fit. [Did you know hazelnuts have the highest folate level of any tree nut?] The hazelnuts give the cheese a hint of sweetness, balancing out the smoky and sharp blue cheese tang.

I had fantasized about pairing this with Nutella, but alas, I was out and couldn’t wait for a grocery trip. Instead I used an Oregon blackberry jam on sourdough toast, which was a great sweet-sharp, creamy-crunchy contrast. Next time around, I plan to pair it with a Rogue HazelNut Brown Nectar Ale, to harmonize with the hazelnut flavor